Shortstop Kahlil Watson committed to North Carolina State in the fall of his junior year, but Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent soon got a sinking feeling.
“We knew it would be difficult to keep him away from Major League Baseball,” Avent said.
Avent was correct.
The Marlins drafted Watson 16th overall in 2021, signing him for $4.5 million.
Watson got just a brief taste of pro ball last year, but he was spectacular. He hit .394 with a 1.130 OPS in 42 Florida Complex League plate appearances.
None of that surprises Chris Hart, N.C. State’s associate head coach and the first member of the Wolfpack staff to start following Watson as a rising high school freshman. Watson attended Wake Forest (N.C.) High, which is about 20 miles from the N.C. State campus.
“He’s one of the best—if not the best—hitter I’ve ever scouted in our area,” Hart said. “Corey Seager (a Charlotte native) jumps off the page over the past 15 years, but Kahlil is right in that range.”
That’s exceptionally high praise for Watson, an 18-year-old lefthanded hitter with the potential to be a five-tool player. He runs exceptionally well and his power plays much bigger than his 5-foot-9, 180-pound frame.
Off the field, he is a fun-loving country kid who enjoys hunting and fishing.
“His nickname is ‘Kool-Aid’ because of his big smile,” said his father, Charles Watson.
Kahlil Watson is also loyal.
Even though it was obvious that he was going to go high in the draft and that the money was going to be too much to pass up, he still showed love for the Wolfpack program.
After N.C. State was forced to drop out of the 2021 College World Series semifinals due to a Covid outbreak, the team flew home to Raleigh and drove straight to its stadium, where a full house waited to honor the Wolfpack after it made its third-ever trip to Omaha.
Watson was one of the fans in attendance, and that meant a lot to Hart.
“We gave him some big hugs and wished him good luck with the draft,” Hart said.